The Nome Kennel Club held its first race of 2021 on January 2. Pictured is second place winner Stephanie Johnson.

Nome Kennel Club holds first race of 2021

The Nome Kennel Club began the 2021 racing season with a 7-mile, 8-dog run on Saturday, Jan. 2.
The skies were blue and the temperature a comfy 12°F. The start of the race was at Nome’s municipal snow dump and took the mushers and their teams around a seven-mile loop to the outskirts of Icy View, towards the Beam Road and then back to Gold Hill and the snow dump. Seven teams started, more than in past few seasons.
The fastest musher of the day was Sarah Richards. Her 36:37 bested runner-up Stephanie Johnson by nearly six minutes.
Six teams finished the short run, with one team being disqualified.
Sarah Richards and her family moved to Nome from Tok about a year and a half ago. Her Kennel Déjà is smallish, with 12 dogs. “They are super fun to work with and we had such a great time today,” she said after the race. “It was beautiful out.” Her dogs sleep in the house, she said,  and are being part of the family.
 “We go hiking and camping and backpacking together,” said Richards. “So they are all definitely a team. They have never run a race before, other than two-dog junior musher races with my kids. But they had a blast and we had great experiences passing. Everybody out there on the trail was awesome to see, all the volunteers, all the other mushers, great sportsmanship.” Richards reported one minor wipeout where she hit a tussock with a sled runner just as she was saying hello to a race volunteer. The dogs stopped for her right away and were ready to go as soon as she hopped back onto the sled. She and her husband Keane, who is a teacher, moved to Nome largely for the recreational opportunities.
Stephanie Johnson, who finished second had two teams in the race. She ran one and Valerie Fuller ran the other. “The trail was good, a little soft in places, but that’s the snow right now,” said Johnson at the race finish.  “We’ve had a warm spell. But the dogs did great! They were awesome.” She ran a team which has been together for a while. They ran the Serum Run together last year. Her dogs are long distance runners more than sprinters. “I don’t usually train over 10 miles an hour,” she said. “I prefer going longer distances at a slower pace.” She has 27 dogs in her kennel.
Johnson’s second team in the race Saturday was run by Valerie Fuller. “It was a beautiful day to go running,” she said. She didn’t think the trail was punchy, particularly compared to the trails she and her own dogs have been running. “I normally work with another kennel in town but Stephanie had a couple of extra dogs and invited me to come out and run with them,” she said. “So, I went out and worked with them a couple days this week.” There are a couple of older dogs in the team. “They got a little tired and a little slack as we were going,” she said. “But we were able to perk up. With other teams out there it was nice to be competitive and have that competitive atmosphere.”
Samantha Pollee was disqualified after her team broke the gangline shortly after the race start and required the help of race volunteers to retrieve the run-away dogs and to reunite them with the musher and the sled.
The Nome Kennel Club’s next race will be on January 16. It’s a 20-mile 12-dog run with a purse of $400.

Here are the race results:
1) Sarah Richards 36:37
2) Stephanie Johnson 42:30
3) Nils Hahn 44:32
4) Diana Haecker 48:31
5) Jessica Lemaire 52:08
6) Valerie Fuller 54:40
7) Samantha Pollee: Disqualified


The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

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